Architecture Education Goes Outside Itself : Crossing Borders, Breaking Barriers

This past weekend we were lucky enough to have a 2 day conference sponsored by the PhD students in the school of design. Here’s a snippet about it,

“This conference and exhibition will explore the evolution of American architecture education over the last century and a half. Highlighting the dialectic between professional formation and disciplinary innovation, the four sessions of the conference will examine the different models by which the architect’s training became institutionalized within the academic setting of the school, and, at the same time, the way educators and students continuously endeavored to expand the purview of architectural knowledge and open the profession to new ideas and practices. The accompanying exhibition, drawn from Penn’s rich archival collections, will present a selection of student work spanning from the Beaux-Arts to postmodernism.”

There was a tremendous amount of ideas being tossed around. Dr. Leatherbarrow summarized with a few thoughts:

1. The history of architecture is a sub-field in itself: Do other fields such as English, history, and literature, continue to remake their curriculum on a regular basis like architecture? If not, why? Does it stem from a lingering idea of an Atelier or master? Is that what we expect of our leaders? For programs to be redefined with each new leader?

2. Do we still believe that architecture can pull itself up by its own bootstraps? Is the tree still the opportunity for renewal within the subject of our department? Perhaps the center can be instead remade by the periphery – what’s outside the field can renew what’s inside of it. I.e. consider the impact of energy crises on teaching infrastructure.

3. Architecture education is heuristic – learning continues far beyond the 3-5 years of a program! The shift from learning to either research or training coincides with the older idea of ‘forming the person’ through their education and profession – the way they see, travel, draw, etc. This is the point when architecture education transcends everyday life.

Here are some images of student work in the architectural archives exhibition.


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